We go to extreme lengths to hide our pricey purchases form our partners

A RECENT study revealed that a third of married people admit to financial infidelity.

Two women tell Fabulous why they lie about their spending – and go to extreme lengths to hide pricey purchases from their partners.

Glancing around furtively, Maggie McLean began shredding the packaging from her latest online shopping delivery. She quickly cut the box up, shoving the pieces deep into the recycling bin, hoping her husband Egon, 40, wouldn’t discover them.

Meanwhile, the receipt for the £4,000 antique diamond ring she bought in an online auction was dissolving in a basin of water, or as Maggie calls it, “destroying the evidence”. That’s because Maggie, 38, from London, is cheating on her husband – with her shopping addiction.

A self-confessed hoarder who can’t resist a splurge, her love of spending is in direct contrast to Egon’s more frugal, minimalist tastes, driving her to become an expert at hiding the evidence of her sprees.

“I’ve always had a shopping addiction,” Maggie, who is mum to two-year-old son Zeph and two-week-old Raphael, admits. "I think it stems from having a hard childhood. I didn’t have much as a child and didn’t know where the next pair of shoes would come from, so now I buy in excess. 

“One of the biggest issues is furniture. I’ll buy a table or shelf, then decide I don’t like it any more, so I change it. I’ve got a thing about duvet covers, too – I’ve probably got enough to fill a hotel – and cups and plates.

"The ring, which I bought in April, is a 1938 collectors’ piece, but Egon thinks it’s from Accessorize,” she admits. “I don’t even wear it, it’s just kept in a drawer. I’m more of a collector!

By contrast, Egon, who runs his own insurance firm, is a minimalist. He always says he wants a simple, basic life and doesn’t need lots of possessions, so he gets very cross with my love of ‘stuff’. That’s why I hide it.”

Recent research led by University College London found that over a third of us engage in “financial infidelity” – hiding evidence of spending we think our partner might disapprove of – while an American study revealed 76% of respondents said this kind of behaviour had harmed their relationship.

It’s only getting worse. In the week immediately following the lockdown announcement, the weekly growth rate for home and leisure retail went up by 200% compared to the same period in the previous year.

Maggie estimates she’s spent around £3,000 on baby clothes and equipment since this date, as well as a further £899 on a new velvet sofa, the price of which she lied about, and has concealed as many purchases as she can from Egon.

Maggie says she’s not worried Egon might find out how much she spends, as they have separate bank accounts and she receives all of her statements online.

I’d buy it, hide it from Egon and then forget I had it so I’d end up buying it again.

“I try to keep track of deliveries so I know when post is due to arrive, and I make sure I get to the front door before Egon does. If it’s small, I stuff it down my bra so he doesn’t see me bringing anything back indoors. We have a lodger who lives with us, too, so if it’s a big box I blame it on her.”

Maggie – who is studying for a PhD but also earns money buying and selling designer clothes online – orders clothes for herself, Zeph and baby Raphael. "When Zeph was born I bought loads of baby clothes. Some things I bought twice. I’d buy it, hide it from Egon and then forget I had it so I’d end up buying it again.

"I had drawers full of clothes, including expensive cashmere Babygros I never used. I then had to sell them on Ebay.”

Egon has suggested she needs professional help for her spending. “His favourite phrase is: ‘You don’t need this’. During one argument he told me it’s a mental illness and my brain isn’t working properly because I keep on buying things,” Maggie says.

“My shopping causes fights and he’s said I should get therapy, but I’ve refused. Maybe I’m in denial, but I don’t think I have a problem, and it’s easier to keep hiding the true extent of my shopping from him.”

Lockdown has turned us into a nation of online shoppers. Clinical psychologist Dr Kate Mason says: “With any addiction, whether it’s shopping, drug-taking, or alcohol, it gives us a dopamine kick – a happy hormone that gives us that feeling of pleasure.

TRANSLATES INTO GUILT

"Because we’re in lockdown, there aren’t many enjoyable things we can do, so some people are channelling it into that lovely, excited feeling you get when you buy something new.

“However, we know that we’ve got to be careful with money now and buying ourselves things is almost seen as selfish, which can lead to buying treats and hiding them from a partner.

"But lying is almost on a par with cheating on them, because dishonesty is where the trust starts to diminish. If you can’t talk to your partner about what you’re spending, what else can you hide from them?

"This translates into guilt – that’s where the arguments start and that’s where the breakdown of a relationship can begin.” 

Like Maggie, Andrea Nicolaou has, over the course of her 11-year marriage, become adept at hiding extravagant purchases from her husband Harry.

“I love designer brands such as Prada and Louis Vuitton,” explains Andrea, 37, who is currently on maternity leave from her job as a primary school deputy headteacher and is mum to Gabriella, 11 months.

“However, Harry doesn’t understand. He’s much more frugal, preferring to save than spend, so instead of telling him the truth, I hide stuff – like the £1,000 Prada handbag I covered with jumpers at the back of my wardrobe, knowing he wouldn’t look there. 

“Since lockdown began, I’ve bought lots of storage to keep everything organised and tidy, and toys including a walker for my daughter. I’ve had clothes delivered from Monsoon, too, which I didn’t really need.

"The boredom of being stuck at home makes my shopping worse, and I’ve spent around £1,500 since March,” Andrea says. “I keep adding items to online baskets and then wondering whether, if I check out, Harry will notice the deliveries, as we’ve both been at home all day.”

Andrea acknowledges she’s spending her own money and has no reason to lie, but says she hides her purchases to avoid causing an argument.

“We’re not a couple to have big rows, but he’ll start questioning me when he knows I’ve been shopping. He’ll say things like: ‘Haven’t you got enough stuff? Why does the baby need more clothes, she has more than me? There you go, spending again.’

“I will argue back and remind him that it’s my money and up to me what I spend it on, and it will just go back and forth like that. We don’t properly fall out, but for a peaceful life it’s just easier he doesn’t know.”

Along with hiding purchases from Harry, 42, a civil servant, Andrea also lies about how much things cost – like fibbing that a £2,000 Louis Vuitton cabin case was £500 in the sale.

“My expensive tastes are nothing new, I’ve loved nice things long before I met Harry 17 years ago, and I’ve been hiding purchases from him for years. Back in 2014, I paid more than £500 for a pair of Christian Louboutin wedges and Harry spotted them – with the price tag on – in my wardrobe.

"Not only could he not believe a pair of shoes cost that much, he was stunned when I only wore them once because they were so uncomfortable.

"They’ve sat in my wardrobe for six years because I refuse to put them on Ebay, knowing I’d only get a fraction of the price I paid for them. Even now, if he knows I’m buying something expensive he’ll say: ‘Oh, no, is this going to be another one of those Louboutin stories?’ He’s never let me forget it!

"He thinks the stuff I buy is a waste of money and he’s not afraid to tell me so. I don’t want to row, so I lie. I’ve got four big fitted wardrobes, so I’ll buy stuff, hide it and when I finally pull it out, I’ll say I’ve had it for years or that it was a gift from my mum or sister."

Before Gabriella was born, Andrea bought a £500 Mamas & Papas cot without telling Harry. “A friend gave us their old cot but I wanted Gabriella to have a new one,” she says. “I ordered one online and told him my mum bought it for me.”

Andrea is currently on maternity leave, but had saved enough money to remain financially independent during her time away from work – and still contributes half to their household bills.

Harry has no idea how much she has in savings, and has never asked. “I put money aside so I can treat myself when I want to. I like the nice things in life, I always have.

"It’s my money, so why not? My mum agrees and encourages me to treat myself to things I like, but my dad is like Harry and thinks designer label prices are crazy.”

Andrea now likes to splash out on her daughter as well as herself. “Recently, I bought Gabriella a Juicy Couture vest and playsuit costing £40, which I hid so Harry wouldn’t see it.

"By the time I took it out, it didn’t fit her, so it was a huge waste of money. He can’t understand my fascination with designer gear as he only shops on the high street.”

Andrea’s shopping habits have become a running joke between her and her mum and sister, who help her conceal her splurges.

“I’ll get parcels delivered to them and they’ll bring them to my house in a Tesco bag, saying it’s grocery shopping they’ve done for me.”

Psychologist Emma Kenny says financial “cheating” can be indicative of deeper issues. “In a healthy relationship, both partners should be fully aware of any expenditure, as it affects both of you. If you’re not transparent about your finances, what else are you not transparent about?”

And, if you’ve lied to your partner about money, she advises it’s best to come clean.

 ”If you say: ‘Look, I’ve screwed up here,’ people will see you as more trustworthy. Yes, you did a bad thing, but you’ve seen the error of your ways and thought about the consequences. You have to say sorry. 

“The other positive is that it opens up a discussion and creates an opportunity for you both to be honest. If one person has lied about money, the other partner might have told the odd fib, too. If that’s the case, the best way forward, if you really value the relationship,is to be honest and open about it.”

Despite her lies, Maggie doesn’t feel her relationship is in jeopardy. “Life is too short to apologise,” she says. “I am how I am. We love each other and our marriage is strong. It’s not worth falling out over money."

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